Wood County Schools looks to revamp entrances

Photo by Michael Erb Parent Jamaal Stewart speaks to sixth-grader De’Arius Dawson while standing in the entrance of Van Devender Middle School Thursday. The mantrap allows visitors into a waiting area where they can speak to someone in the office before being allowed entrance into the school.

PARKERSBURG — Wood County Schools will begin revamping school entrances this summer as part of an initiative to improve security at buildings throughout the district.

Superintendent Will Hosaflook said he recently asked Local School Improvement Councils to submit wishlists of their facility needs, and the most asked for upgrade was the creation of mantraps.

“There are millions of dollars in security upgrades we can do, but mantraps will be the first step,” he said. “That was what was asked for, time and time again.”

A mantrap involves two sets of doors with a waiting area in between. A visitor can be buzzed in through the first entrance and speak to someone before being allowed through the next set of doors and into the main building.

Many schools already have the feature, such as Van Devender and Edison middle schools. But many other schools do not, and entrance points vary wildly between buildings, especially in older structures.

Photo by Michael Erb Officials say mantraps such as the one at Van Devender Middle School offer a layer of security as administrators can better monitor and control access to their schools. Wood County Schools plans to install mantraps at more schools this summer.

One of the challenges, however, is the main office is not always located next to the entrance.

“There are many schools where you walk right into the cafeteria from the front door,” he said.

The problem is further compounded by the fact many school main offices are not located next to entrances.

“You have to relocate those offices,” he said. “One of the most important parts of a mantrap is for someone to physically see the person, not just through a fish eye lens on a camera.”

Adding that level of access control also will require training for administrators, teachers and other employees.

“We can build the mantraps and spend the money on them, but all it takes is one rock in a door to prop it open and the whole system is compromised,” Hosaflook said.

Hosaflook said officials hope to renovate the entrances of five schools each year, and money for those improvements will come from money in the continuing levy allocated for safety and security.

Those projects will be part of the district’s upcoming budget discussions, he said.

“We’ve already begun the design and drawings because we want it to be sound and meet all proper codes,” Hosaflook said. “It’ll come down to cost.”